Welcome to the second edition of Real Moms’ Real Bodies, featuring my friend Anna! Anna is an inspiration to moms everywhere – she decided to have a baby on her own and is totally rocking it. As I mentioned in my post about my own postpartum body image journey, I’m looking forward to featuring moms with all sorts of different body image stories and I’m so pleased to start with Anna.
P.S. Check out Anna and her daughter Lucy’s adventures on Instagram @babybackpacker!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and your lifestyle.
I’m 33, single and a mom to 2-year-old Lucy. Lucy’s father isn’t in the picture and we’re an awesome twosome. I’m a freelance writer, so I have a lot of schedule flexibility. Lucy is in daycare five days a week, but I can shift my schedule to take a day off if I need to or drop her off late or pick her up early. I’m also able to travel quite a bit, which was essential for me — I was backpacking around the world when I got pregnant with Lucy, and I very much wanted to ensure that I would still be able to travel as a parent. We were in Costa Rica for a month in January and just spent two weeks exploring England, Scotland, and Ireland.
I like being healthy and definitely feel better when I work out regularly. I try to eat relatively healthy and try to eat meat 3x a week max. But I also adore carbs, cheese, and anything buttery. I also love wine nights with my friends and meeting other parents at the local beer garden. I want to enjoy this time in my life while also feeling good about myself.
Tell us about your relationship with food and your body pre-baby.
So complicated. I had some disordered eating issues in my twenties that I thought were resolved through therapy, but some of those feelings came back during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Through my later twenties, I developed a pretty healthy relationship with food. I love trying new restaurants (and my job — working at a magazine — got me plenty of invites for meals) but I also trained for marathons, did triathlons, and went to SoulCycle a few times a week. I had a “work hard, play hard” attitude, and even though I always felt I could lose ten pounds, also liked the way I looked. But it definitely took a lot of effort.
And now? How would you describe the changes you’ve experienced in your body after having a baby?
I lost weight after Lucy was born. I had only gained 18 pounds during pregnancy, and ended up losing about 30 by one month postpartum. I didn’t have time to eat! But once I got into more of a groove, I gained about 20 pounds back. I began using food as a reward for getting through the day, and a lot of “events” in my new life with Lucy revolved around food — we would meet friends for lunch, go for a walk and I’d grab a cookie or ice cream as a treat, friends would come over and order pizza — and I wasn’t working out at all.
I also had diastasis recti — ab muscle separation — during pregnancy. People think it’s related to how strong your core is or how in shape you were prior to pregnancy, but that’s not the case. And I found that my OB never discussed it — which is so frustrating. Diastasis recti means you have to modify certain exercises to allow your muscles to come back together — crunches can make it worse. And I feel I have no core strength.
What about changes to your schedule and the stresses of being a parent? How do you think these changes have impacted your body?
The hardest thing for me was and is lack of time! I used to think, if you didn’t have at least an hour at the gym, then it wasn’t even worth going. Now, I have to learn how to maximize 20 minutes or less.
I also turn to food as a treat too often — after a stressful day of work, the idea of just ordering pizza sounds so good. When I’m tired, I want carb-heavy foods that end up making me feel even more exhausted.
How did you/do you cope with the changes?
I’ve decided to stop focusing on the scale — which can depress me. When Lucy and I were in Costa Rica in January, I felt so good. I was heavier than I was used to, but I tried to ignore that and still wore a bathing suit and yoga shorts every day. Wearing fewer clothes and being more active — I went to yoga or surfing every day while Lucy was with a babysitter in the morning — made me feel a lot more conscous and proud of what my body could do. I also was walking everywhere, stopped drinking for the month (it was way too hot!) and was eating a lot more whole, healthy foods. Now that we’re back home, I want to keep those habits of daily movement and whole foods in my everyday rotation.
Would you share a few pictures of yourself post-baby and tell us how you feel about them?
Left: Lucy’s birthday in May of last year. I wasn’t happy with my weight and was so stressed with work that I would always reward myself with sweets. I was really self-conscious about my body.
Right: This was in Costa Rica in January. I’m heavier than I had been before I had Lucy, but felt so proud of what my body could do. I would regularly walk a few miles with her in the carrier and loved stretching every AM in yoga. When I look at this picture, I feel like I look so strong and happy.
What do you want to share with other postpartum women?
Your whole life changes, so it makes sense your body changes. This isn’t a bad thing. But I think staying on top of taking care of you — mentally, physically, emotionally — even in the trenches of parenting a newborn — is so key. I wish I had focused less on fitting into my jeans after Lucy was born and more about how I felt. After all, since your whole life has already changed, it can actually be a great place to begin new habits and routines.